Marks & Spencer officially opens a 1.1m sq ft state-of-the-art distribution centre in Bradford today in a key step in its Project 2020 business improvement programme.

The centre, the retailer’s biggest, will employ 1,200 people when fully operational and serve all stores with furniture products and store equipment, such as racking, and next year will also supply ambient food.

Marks & Spencer IT and logistics director Darrell Stein said: “This is an exciting day. Bradford will deliver better service and better availability for our customers and is a key part of our strategy to prepare our supply chain for the future.”

The retailer is in the process of consolidating its warehouses and reported at the time of its full-year results May, by which time the Bradford premises was functioning, that it had already shut 21 of 110 sites.

A second site in the Midlands has been identified to be a combined national distribution centre and dedicated e-commerce facility. It is hoped that premises will be open in summer 2012.

The Bradford centre has been built to meet to the retailer’s Plan A critera, such as being carbon neutral.